6:50 hours; 4000’ vertical; 9:40 am – 4:30 pm
Rocky Peak Ridge 3:50 hours, 1:30 pm; Giant: 2:40 pm
Round Pond Trail Head– Dipper – Left at 2nd fork of Rocky Peak Ridge Drainage – Ridge - RPR – Giant – Ridge trail back to car.
Total Mileage/Vertical Ascent:
Dry trail conditions with small pockets of snow at about 3700’
4 pieces sliced turkey, 1 blueberry scone, 8 slices dried apricots, gorp…1 blackfly (chased with water)
Long sleeve shirt, rain gear, Golite trail running sneakers
Blackflies, 2 garter snakes, bear prints and a junko
Bushwhack of RPR
I awoke dizzy from an oncoming cold front and spent a couple hours watching birds from my living room. I was contemplating whether to hike or not based on my equilibrium. I decided to give it a go at about 8:30 and packed quickly. I was applying bug repellent by 9:35 at Round Pond’s trail head in anticipation of the blackflies…now in full swing in upstate New York. The route as describe in the header lists my plan of attack. The goal was to find an “easy” way up Rocky Peak Ridge (RPR) from Route 73. In retrospect, I found several expeditious sections and a section that I will avoid forever at all costs.
I entered the woods directly across Route 73. An obvious deer path adjacent to a small brook led me north to the cliffy terrain. I was planning to follow the drainage, but opted on the deer paths instead. The path was precarious at points, but the way up through the maze of steep slabs that comprised the first couple hundred vertical feet was easy in retrospect. The open woods and bare rock faces after the initial climb were relaxing and views west were beautiful in the hot sun. Pink lady slipper woodland orchids were in full bloom near several of the rocks littering the area. I angled due north from northeast toward the second drainage from the Dipper (a small pond fed by RPR’s main flow). It took about 40 minutes to reach this first small goal.
I didn’t locate the Dipper, but passed closely nearby and progressed in the woods on the right-hand side the main drainage from RPR, several hundred feet away from the flow along deer paths that continued to trace the easiest route. Blow-down was barely annoying at this point, but gradually increased beyond the first fork of the drainage. Conditions are subject to change at any time depending on the storms and other natural events, but for now, this looked like a nice route up from Route 73 without first climbing Giant. Rico (WWBF) had previously scouted the Drainage and followed along the left side. Beyond the first fork, our two routes drastically diverged. He’d explored the way to the col between Giant and RPR, so I decided (last minute) to add a peak to my “bushwhacked” list…a decision I regretted soon after.
Blow-down on the flank of RPR. Some supported my weight and others, well...
As the flanking maneuver turned into a hassle, I descended into the drainage where it appeared more open. Indeed it was, though I fell twice into the water while trying to keep my feet dry…Open slab made for a nice walk until I realized that it was leading me about thirty degrees east of my target and farther down the ridge. I exited to the left in an effort to find the other fork of the drainage and simply followed a route toward RPR through the woods. Initially, it was open and nice. It changed abruptly and I took my first snack break. I felt overwhelmed…a sign that I needed food. RPR is not very steep from this approach, so I, at least, had that in my favor. The extra protein I ingested from a blackfly that decided to explore my uvula (dangly thing in back of the throat and NOT to be confused with vulva) did little to help, however.
Blow-down accompanied my hike from about 3200’ until the summit ridge where it switched to mild cripple brush. I spent the last nearly 1000’ vertical feet sweating yet chilled from the breeze of the approaching storms (of which I was unaware at the time) and finally put on my rain jacket to cut the wind. It also allowed easier penetration of the tight forest growth. Dead trees crisscrossed the terrain and I climbed on them as much as possible. It’s a sad statement when a balancing act upon a lattice of half-rotten dead pine with sharp branch protrusions is preferable to walking on the ground. This only let up occasionally when replaced with screens of tightly growing conifers. I pushed through foot by foot, sometimes backtracking for a better way around, up or over. “Open” forest occasionally gave my body a break from the constant exertion and scratches. I took several longer-than-usual breaks to eat and drink: I just couldn’t keep up with my food or water intake. After well over an hour of a nearly stand-still pace I saw lighter forest far ahead. My GPS stated that about 800’ (horizontal) feet remained until the ridge top. That gave me new energy and I reasserted myself until finally reaching a small cliff.
Another example of the blow-down on the flank of RPR.
I felt my energy return as I climbed the stone and surveyed the area from whence I just passed. It looked as thick as it felt. The view north boasted the summit of RPR after what looked to be a walk of about twenty minutes. A moderately and intermittently defined herd path led the way through the head high cripple brush. It was light and enjoyable compared to many peaks. Frequent deer signs dotted the trail. The summit was firmly underfoot at 1:30 after a 3:50 minute climb…I’d scouted a way I don’t want to use for the September traverse.
I planted myself against the summit cairn as I changed socks and had a snack. The wind was refreshing and a giant cloud formation was illuminated over Giant’s summit (see primary image). The site was spectacular if not threatening. Storms dotted the mountain valleys. Apparently, our local “guess the forecast” TV station got it wrong again and the storms projected for 6-7 pm gave their radar the slip and appeared five hours early. Rain began to patter around me as I donned raingear and covered my pack, all the while contemplating whether I wanted to bushwhack back down the drainage from the col or summit Giant. I opted to summit the monster. Again, the ascending trail from the col kicked my rear as it had twice prior. I took about five breaks on the ascent breathing heavily all the while as I listened to the whooshing and rumbling up above.
Cloud formation heading over Champlain Valley area.
The wind was strong, but refreshing as I reached the ridge and hiked .2 miles to the summit proper. Even at a slower than normal pace it took only about forty minutes to hike col to summit. A dark-eyed junko kept me company along the path. The views were normal for my ascents of Giant rainy and obscured except last winter when it was snowing much of the time. The descent was not notable except for a cross near the trail that I’d not noticed before. The exit took less than two hours and I arrived back at the car at 4:30 after intermittently jogging the road from the Giant’s trailhead.
It was a good scout in that, with our collective experience, Rico and I found a somewhat optimal route up RPR that fit within our parameters. I usually average about 3.5 mph on trail. My hiking average for this day was about eight miles in seven hours or an average of about 1.15 m.p.h. This was a testament to both being slightly out of shape and the brutality of the whack up RPR.
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